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A Night of Kathakali and Yakshagana

Giridhar Khasnis

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Traditional art forms such as Kathakali and Yakshagana are known for their energetic and spell binding performances.  Actors with elaborate make-up, costumes and embellishment enact mythological episodes, often stretching for hours and even entire nights.

There is much drama even before the show begins – in make-up rooms where performers put on colours and vibrant costumes on their  faces and bodies.  It is here that mere mortals transform themselves into more than that in a matter of some hours of painstaking effort.

Giridhar Khasnis entered one such make-up room where Kathakali and Yakshagana performers were getting ‘transformed’ before taking the stage for a back-to-back rendering of Dushasana Vadha (The Slaying of Dushasana).  The uniqueness of the event was that the same episode came alive through two art forms by two distinguished groups.  It was an all-night outdoor performance, done almost entirely under the flickering flames of burning torches at Bondel (Mangalore) in the winter of 2015.

Khasnis’s camera captured some stunningly candid, surreal moments both on stage and off it.

Giridhar Khasnis (b. 1957) is a Bangalore-based photographer, art writer, columnist and curator.  In the last two decades, his writings on art, literature, photography and world cinema have frequently appeared in various leading publications. He has curated ten art shows including ‘A Moment in Time’, a photography exhibition, in 2017. As a practicing photographer for the last four decades, he has extensively shot in nearby and far-away locales of the country. His solo exhibition of photographs, ‘Of Silence, Solitude and Slow Time’ concluded in Bangalore in March 2019.